Grammar Lesson: The Infinitive and Infinitive Phrase

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 13, 2010
  • The third type of verbal, in addition to the participle and the gerund, is the infinitive. An infinitive is composed of the word to plus a verb. Examples of the infinitive include to remember, to cuddle, to pacify, and to yodel.
  • Infinitives can function as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

      To succeed is Ted's goal. (noun—subject of the sentence)
      Franklin's goal was to succeed. (noun—predicate nominative)
      Melissa wanted to succeed. (noun—direct object)
      Kelly has the drive to succeed. (adjective—Which drive? the drive to succeed)
      Kelly will endeavor to succeed. (adverb—How will Kelly endeavor? to succeed)
  • An infinitive phrase is composed of the infinitive, its modifiers (or describers), and all the other words that are needed to complete the idea begun by the infinitive.
      To stay up later was the child's wish. (noun—subject)
      Lorene desired to be a doctor. (noun—direct object)
      My cousin's goal was to make the New York Yankees. (noun—predicate nominative)
      Henry's ultimate goal was to make other people happy. (noun—predicate nominative)
    • The musical to see is Oklahoma!as (adjective—Which musical? Oklahoma!)
      The strong lifeguard swam out to save the struggling swimmer. (adverb—Why did the lifeguard swim out? to save the struggling swimmer)

Activity- The Many Uses of the Infinitive Phrase

Underline the infinitive phrase in each sentence. Then indicate on the line before the sentence if the infinitive phrase is used as a noun (N), adjective (ADJ), or adverb (ADVB).

  1. ____ Claudio left early to meet his brother.
  2. ____ Haley's dream is to revisit Europe.
  3. ____ To collect the entire series of presidential cards is my goal.
  4. ____ All the students were excited to display their artwork.
  5. ____ Kate's determination to teach well is quite obvious.
  6. ____ Patsy likes to listen to Broadway tunes.
  7. ____ We walked to the pizza parlor to buy some Italian hero sandwiches.
  8. ____ My relatives were the most important people to invite to the ceremony.
  9. ____ Eloise did try to call you last night.
  10. ____ Sheilah was very excited to participate in the contest.
  11. ____ The best way to improve your performance is no secret.
  12. ____ Is this the proper way to hold the musical instrument?
  13. ____ The finest way to memorize the poem is through practice.
  14. ____ Lenka opened the book to find the correct answer.
  15. ____ To do all of her illustrations well was Maureen's goal.


  1. ADVB—to meet his brother
  2. N—to revisit Europe
  3. N—To collect the entire series of presidential cards
  4. ADVB—to display their artwork
  5. ADJ—to teach well
  6. N—to listen to Broadway tunes
  7. ADVB—to buy some Italian hero sandwiches
  8. ADJ—to invite to the ceremony
  9. N—to call you last night
  10. ADVB—to participate in the contest
  11. ADJ—to improve your performance
  12. ADJ—to hold the musical instrument
  13. ADJ—to memorize the poem
  14. ADVB—to find the correct answer
  15. N—To do all of her illustrations well
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